Illinois 41, Indiana 20: Hoosiers start fast but fade faster.

BLOOMINGTON, IN - OCTOBER 08: Dusty Kiel #8 of the Indiana Hoosiers attempts a pass while defended by Whitney Mercilus #85 of the Illinois Illini during the game at Memorial Stadium on October 8, 2011 in Bloomington, Indiana. Illinois won 41-20. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

For most of the first quarter, it appeared that IU was going to make a game of it, but Illinois reclaimed the lead before the end of the first quarter and rolled to a win in Bloomington.  The Hoosiers started things well, with Shane Wynn returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown, and expanded the lead to 10-0, but IU surrendered the momentum permanently when the Illini returned a Dusty Kiel fumble and took the lead, 14-10, at the end of the first quarter.  Here are the official stats.

After fits and starts throughout the Zook era, the Illini may finally have pulled things together.  They are 6-0 and have their toughest games at home, so it will be interesting to see where they end up.  In light of that, it's hard to be terribly disappointed in the outcome or the effort from IU.  Unfortunately, IU had the opportunity to put the Illini in a deep hole and simply could not do it.  After IU scored on the opening kickoff, the two teams traded punts, and then IU recovered an Illinois fumble on the Illini 27.  That possession ended in an IU field goal, extending the lead to 10-0.  Illinois pulled to within 10-7 on a long touchdown pass to AJ Jenkins on a third and long (apparently Kevin Wilson said in the press conference that the corner blitz was a mistake by the player--it wasn't called) and on IU's next possession, the aforementioned scoop-and-score on the Kiel fumble gave Illinois the lead for good. 

Unfortunately, Dusty Kiel really struggled.  Kiel was only 6-19 for 71 yards.  True freshman Tre Roberson was 11-17 for 148 yards and an interception, although much of that came in garbage time.  Edward Wright-Baker, while reportedly close to healthy, was deemed not quite ready by the coaching staff, per postgame reports.  Still, this was a fairly ugly game at QB, and I don't know what Wilson is going to do from this point forward.  Roberson certainly adds much more of a running element than either Wright-Baker or Kiel.  We will just have to see what happens.

This was another ugly performance for the defense, allowing 308 yards on the ground to Illinois and allowing 6.7 yards per play (IU averaged 3.9). 

Performances of note:

  • In addition to decent passing numbers, Tre Roberson gained 36 yards on 14 carries.
  • Stephen Houston may be merging as the top running back, for what it's worth.  He had 14 carries for 68 yards and also had 70 receiving yards, thanks in large part to a nice play in the first half by Dusty Kiel, when he threw a pass while in the grasp (literally, not by rule) of an Illinois defender. 
  • Damarlo Belcher may wish that he had gone pro last year.  Three receptions, 15 yards.
  • The Hardin brothers, both starting at safety, continue to have an impact.  Drew Hardin led the Hoosiers with 12 tackles.  That's never the desired role for a guy in the secondary, of course.
  • Adam Replogle had 2 sacks.

IU is now 1-5 and faces the least winnable game on the schedule, the road trip to Wisconsin.  There are winnable games remaining on the schedule, but next week's isn't one of them. More on the Badgers as the week continues.

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